Looking Back on Festival 2019
by Stewart Goodings
The day before last month’s Readers and Writers Festival was to start, I was in the Comox Airport waiting to greet Beverley McLachlin, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. And I must confess I had serious butterflies in my stomach. While I had met many Cabinet Ministers and even a couple of Prime Ministers in my civil service career, Beverley McLachlin was in my mind a true celebrity. First woman Chief Justice, longest serving Chief Justice ever, a renowned jurist with a distinguished reputation.
But Beverley turned out to be the most engaging, considerate, and down to earth person, as befitting someone who grew up in small town Pincher Creek, Alberta. And in the final main stage event of the festival, 230 people crammed into the community hall and discovered what an outstanding person she is. Prompted by Des Kennedy’s usual masterful blend of wit and penetrating questions, this thoughtful and humble woman gave the rapt audience a personal glimpse into her remarkable life and career.
Prior to that event, she had mingled with the locals, toured the island with David Critchley, signed scores of copies of her book “Full Disclosure” after her solo session, relaxed at the home of Rick and Ann Paisley, and engaged in many conversations at lunch and dinner in the back hall. Beverley McLachlin’s participation in our festival was something none of us will forget.
But while she was the most prominent public figure at the festival, I have vivid memories of all the authors. For example, David Chariandy with his moving excerpts from both his novel, “Brother” and his non-fiction ‘letter’ to his daughter, “I’ve Been Meaning To Tell You” … Billeh Nickerson with his playful poems and his warm personality … Andrew MacLeod and his ‘tell it like it is’ analysis of inequalities in health and social issues … Kathy Page’s heart-wrenching story of a long term marriage’s joys and strains in her novel “Dear Evelyn” … the power of Paula Wild’s visual and oral descriptions of the lives of wolves … Lindsay Wong’s straightforward but chilling stories of mental illness and weirdness in her family, so tellingly portrayed in her memoir “The Woo Woo” … Darrel McLeod’s almost hypnotic voice as he related his growing up challenges from his memoir “Mamaskatch” … and Jack Knox bringing explosions of laughter from his audience as he read stories from his “Hard Knox” collection of newspaper columns.
One aspect of the Denman Festival I have always enjoyed is the opportunity to hear local island writers present their own writing compositions. During two well-attended sessions, eleven Denman Writers were featured: Lorraine Martinuik, Del Phillips, Claire King, Karl Goodwin, Valerie Raoul, Graham Brazier, Rick Balfour, Dawn Stofer, Al Black, Bill Engleson and Jo-Anne McLean. This is a unique feature of the Denman Festival and is clearly much appreciated by both the local writers and the audiences who come to these sessions. Poetry, memoir, fantasy, humour, spy story – several genres were on display and showed how broad and creative the writing talent is on Denman.
I relished the chance to moderate one of the main stage sessions, featuring the lively talents of Lindsay Wong, Billeh Nickerson, and Jack Knox. They made it easy for me. Stephanie Slater did a great job as a first time moderator at the festival, engaging Andrew MacLeod, Paula Wild, and Darrel McLeod on what motivated them to write their books. And Des Kennedy, our resident genius in drawing out the ideas and personalities of our visiting authors, talked with David Chariandy and Kathy Page on the broad topic of character creation.
Workshops were held on playwriting (led by Dante Ambriel), non-fiction research (led by Andrew MacLeod), and the poetry of place (led by Billeh Nickerson) and all received positive ratings from the participants. Two other “craft” events took place too: the five day Writing Week, led for the third consecutive year by Vancouver novelist and writing teacher Caroline Adderson, and the Blue Pencil Café, a short manuscript assessment program led by Jeanette Taylor, the writer from Quadra Island. Feedback from these two programs was also very positive.
I really enjoyed the Opening performance by the inimitable Paige Turner (aka Jennifer Lee), representing the Ministry of Truth. She shared her horror at the awful policies being proposed by her Big Brother employer (all courtesy of George Orwell’s prophetic novel “1984”), which had an uncanny resemblance to current events. This ‘playlet’ was conceived by the committee’s own Helen Mason, and ably directed by Juan Barker. It got the festival off to a memorable start.
What else? Well, for the first time, there was a silent auction of gifts and services donated by the generous local sponsors. And it too was a success, netting over $1700 for the continuation of festival activity. And there was a Happy Hour on Saturday late afternoon, with music by Randy Duncan and Paddy O’Connell, with festival-goers on the grass and patio behind the back hall, chatting and clutching glasses of cool beverages served in style by Don Candy and Larry Berg. Another first … beautifully designed and hand-made book bags with the iconic festival symbol ‘Girl in Red Shoes’ on them … these bags flew off the shelf.
As usual, lunches and dinners were catered by Evan Penner and Ron Cadarette and their cheerful crew. And as in the past, the Saturday evening dinner was enlivened by an impromptu dance routine led by Evan in a wild Richard Simmons costume … not your average staid literary festival meal, as one amused visitor noted!
The weather behaved and sunny skies followed festival attendees as they wandered around the village and ambled between the community hall and activity centre. It was a weekend to remember. And as this festival ended, those of us on the organizing committee relaxed for a couple of days, and then started planning next year’s festival. Mark it in your calendars … July 18-20, 2020!
Photos by Kerry Dawson
Writers: David Chariandy, Jack Knox, Andrew MacLeod, Beverley McLachlin, Darrel McLeod, Billeh Nickerson, Kathy Page, Paula Wild, Lindsay Wong
The Writing Week: Caroline Adderson Blue Pencil Cafe: Jeanette Taylor
Workshops: Dante Ambriel, Andrew MacLeod, Billeh Nickerson
Moderators: Stewart Goodings, Des Kennedy, Stephanie Slater
Denman Writers: Rick Balfour, Al Black, Graham Brazier, Bill Engleson, Karl Goodwin, Claire King, Lorraine Martinuik, Jo-Anne McLean, Del Phillips, Valerie Raoul, Dawn Stofer
Denman has just produced another successful Readers and Writers Festival. For three days in July, the downtown area was transformed into a living literary experience for visiting authors, local residents, and Festival aficionados. Below are a few highlights … a few memorable impressions that my organizing committee colleagues and I had about this year’s Festival.
Friday 9:30 … Wedlidi Speck joins us again, and his opening is so calm and eloquent, just the right atmosphere to get the Festival off and running …
Friday 10:30 … Full of puns and apt portraits of her large cast of characters, Marina Endicott reads from Close to Hugh … did I really sing “I’ll be loving Hugh, always …” in thanking her? …
Friday 11:15 … A warm welcome for Emily St John Mandel, who spent some of her growing up years on Denman and now creates international best sellers from her home in New York …
Friday 1:30 … A very familiar figure on stage, our own Des Kennedy, reads from his latest Beautiful Communions, with his distinctive voice giving credence to his characters and the story he imagined …
Friday 4:00 … An intriguing reading by Yasuko Than, bringing us to a world of a century ago, with Vietnamese plotters and French occupiers …
Friday 5:45 … What a whirlwind performance by Sarah Dunant, showing us photos of Renaissance artists and letting us into her creative mind behind her books about women in that dramatic period of European history …
Friday 10:00 … A dynamite day with the evening Main Stage brilliantly opened by Wedlidi Speck, and then augmented by the lively and thoughtful conversation with Bev Sellars, with Des leading the way with his customary blend of empathetic questions …
Saturday noon … What a morning with Bev Sellars, Christine Lowther, and Jim Hoggan all sharing their powerful writing and histories. Bev: “When you are ignorant of others, racism can result. What you get to know others and understand them, the racism is broken down”. With humour and conviction Christine instills in the audience a passion about our land the natural world around us. And Jim reminds us that the best way to deal with a toxic public arena is to “speak the truth, but not to punish” …
Saturday 3:00 … Wow, that Sheri-D sure knows how to liven up an audience. She asks us if we are willing to be weird, and we then prove Denman loves being weird as we chant and move our bodies in response to her vivid spoken word …
Saturday 4:00 … Geoff Dembicki reads from his powerful book about climate change with a focus on the opening chapter which features two of Denman’s community members, Peter Janes and Magdalena Joly …
Saturday 6:00 … The General Store’s Poet Laureate, Jennifer Lee, aka Paige Turner, regales a crowd with a comic/serious exposition about the historic General Store and its Grumpy leader …
Saturday 7:00 … Once again, Evan and Ron and their crew get us moving in a crazy hat dance accompanied by 60s music, before treating us to a tasty meal in the Back Hall, where authors and festival goers happily mingle …
Saturday 9:30 … A rich evening of back and forth conversation among four novelists – Des Kennedy, Marina Endicott, Yasuko Thanh and Emily St John Mandel, ably facilitated by another novelist, Caroline Adderson … the two hours fly by …
Sunday 10:00 … the second session of readings by Denman writers … as with yesterday’s session, a diverse mix of poetry, short story and memoir … fine examples of the writing culture of this island …
Sunday 11:00 … Another Sheri-D Wilson performance of passionate poetry and spoken word expressing her moving and effervescent spirit …
Sunday 1:00 … The final panel of Jim Hoggan, Christine Lowther and Geoff Dembicki was a delight for me to moderate and while the panelists did not shy away from expressing their deep worries about the big issues, especially climate change, they left us with hopeful signs and advice so we leave the Festival with a renewed sense of hope … and Wedlidi sends us off with his closing words of wisdom, compassion and calm …
Sunday 3:00 … Clean up almost over … only 12 months to Festival 2019. Thanks to the authors and the audience for some wonderful memories of another successful Denman community event.
(Click on individual photo to see high resolution version.)
Writers: Geoff Dembicki, Sarah Dunant, Marine Endicott, James Hoggan, Des Kennedy, Christine Lowther, Emily St John Mandel, Bev Sellars, Wedlidi Speck, Yasuko Thanh, Sheri-D Wilson
The Writing Week: Caroline Adderson
Moderators: Caroline Adderson, Stewart Goodings, Des Kennedy
Denman Writers: Edi Apter, Sheila Simpson Brown, Morley Crosby, Lucy Dabbs, Elizabeth Gries, Graham Hayman, Sharon Mackin, Elaine Martin, Michael Rapati, Laura Rodben, Annie Siegel, Peter Paul van Camp
It’s a week later. The authors have all gone home. The stage is empty, the signs packed away.
What remains of the Denman Island Readers and Writers Festival 2017 version? The Canadian author Ernest Hillen, who wrote an evocative memoir, “The Way of A Boy” about his childhood in Java under WWII enemy occupation, ended his book with these words: “Memory is, finally, all we own.”
And for me, so many memories from our most recent festival … here are a few … and if readers of this website have others they’d like to share, let’s hear from you ….
… at the Opening, seeing our two charming ‘refugees’ from the Baroque Festival banter back and forth, and listening
to the community choir sing two songs from that Festival of last June – both vivid reminders of the richness of the cultural life on this island
… watching spell-bound, as our master interrogator, Des Kennedy, engaged two of Canada’s most accomplished historians, Charlotte Gray and Ronald Wright in a wide-ranging discussion of myth and reality in literature and life
… standing on a sunny Friday late afternoon, listening to the General Store’s Poet Laureate Jennifer Lee entertain a throng of festival-goers in front of the store
… admiring Deborah Campbell’s powerful and compelling presentation of her saga of reporting from the front lines of war and refugee troubles in Syria and Iraq
… watching the faces of a predominantly older demographic of citizens being bemused and amused by Hasan Namir’s description of the trials, tribulations and somewhat graphic joys of being a gay man in Iraq and Canada
… marvelling at the skill and sheer bravado of Missie Peters and Dave Morris as they improvised a funny and thought-provoking start on the Sunday morning Main Stage
… seeing a new generation of Denman writers – two engaging 8 year olds, Selena and Abby – kick off the Sunday morning Denman Writers session, one of two such sessions, a unique feature of our literary festival and a reflection of the Festival’s commitment to encouraging local writers
… laughing along with the audience at Andrew Struthers and his wild tales of around the world travel as well as his ‘pro’ and ‘con’ analysis of marijuana use
… relishing the delight shown by Carleigh Baker, making her first appearance at a literary festival by showcasing her debut book of short stories
.. watching the evident pleasure of Matsuki Masutani as he introduced Hiromi Goto, whose first book he translated into Japanese 20 years ago, and Hiromi’s delight at this reunion with her Denman friend
… savouring the tastes of the delicious catered food in the Back Hall, elegantly prepared and served with gusto by Evan and his crew, with the Saturday evening Rainbow dinner further enhanced by the disco music and dancing by the chef and his helpers
… carrying out one of my happy chores of handing out door prizes from our local sponsors – so many of them from generous Denman Island supporters
… and as usual, what an ending: Des in lively conversation with the courageous and articulate Andrew Nikiforuk whose stories of exposing corporate greed and government neglect as well as citizen protest brought a packed house to its feet at the conclusion of the final Festival event
This was not an easy year for Festival organizers – coping with five author cancellations over the last six months, and a broken down Baynes Sound Connector on both Friday and Saturday mornings, plus competition this year from MusicFest in Courtenay. Yet, despite the setbacks, we all felt energized by the appreciative responses of both our authors and the festival audiences.
Onward to 2018!
photos by Kerry Dawson
(Click on photo to see high resolution version)
Writers: Carleigh Baker, Deborah Campbell, Hiromi Goto, Charlotte Gray, Hasan Namir, Andrew Nikiforuk, Missie Peters, Andrew Struthers, Ronald Wright
The Writing Week: Caroline Adderson
Moderators: Stewart Goodings, Des Kennedy, Jennifer Lee
Local Writers: Dante Ambriel, Charlotte Barrow, Bill Engleson, Abby Erickson, Jan Florian, Stewart Goodings, Karl Goodwin, James (Butch) Leslie, Lorraine Martinuik, Jo-Anne McLean, Daryl McLoughlin, Selena Mills, Del Phillips, Valerie Raoul, Dawn Stofer
Wow! What a crazy year this was with record ticket sales, capacity crowds and a noted celebrity in our midst. In the wake of all that buzz and activity, there are countless ideas to be digested and no end of books to be read.
To start things off, Jennifer Lee (with help from Juan Barker, Ron Dobie, Eli Hason and some excellent Denman actors) produced a dramatic rendering of excerpts from My Ain Folk, the Denman historical writings of Winnie Isbister. The lights, sound, and costuming (Kerri Davis) made for a mermerizing experience, all the more powerful having some of the descendant family members in the audience. For the third year (and continued rave reviews), The Writing Week with Steven Price gave a select group of writers the opportunity to work with this highly respected teacher from UVIC. Three other authors gave workshops in their field of expertise in addition to one given by Denman Island’s Jo-Anne McLean who offered some of her secrets to successful Self-Publishing.
In our panels and solo readings, there were so many rich and inspiring presentations. Experiences of displacement and poverty were creatively expressed by Jordan Abel, John Vaillant and Cecily Nicholson: heartbreaking tales and insights of living with mental illness and family tragedy were eloquently and
candidly shared by Miriam Toews, Michael Christie and Charles Demers. In addition, J.B. MacKinnon’s meticulous research brought new perspective to our environmental history and current urgencies, and the amazing Bruce Cockburn talked of his life of political, spiritual and emotional development – as well as talk of music! All of these authors galvanized and inspired their audiences. As usual, numerous people praised the quality and diversity of the writing done by Denman writers who generously shared short pieces in two sessions over the weekend.
On top of this feast of ideas and information, we had the creative storytelling and accordion playing of Barbara Adler (with help from her cohort, Paul Paroczai), the acapella appearance of Denman’s three masked singers, after-party music by Annie and Oliver, and the extraordinary(!!!) meals (including an authentic
Mennonite menu with theatrical presentation to honour Miriam Toews) by Evan, Ron, & company – with a little help from the excellent Two Roads Farm.
What an amazing community this is to achieve the scale and quality of an event like this! Many, many hands helped to make it all come together. We’ve all come away with loads of great memories and many lovely encounters – connections and inspirations between readers and writers – just what this festival is all about. One to remember was the sudden appearance of Bruce Cockburn during a quiet moment on Friday afternoon when he parked and headed straight over to Sheldon’s coffee shack. Bruce proceeded to sit alone for an hour on the stool outside the shack, chat with Sheldon, strum his guitar, and drink what, I’m sure, was Sheldon’s most finely prepared cappuccino.
photos by Brent Reid
Writers: Jordan Abel, Barbara Adler, Michael Christie, Bruce Cockburn, Charles Demers, J.B. MacKinnon, Cecily Nicholson, Miriam Toews, John Vaillant
The Writing Week: Steven Price
Moderators: Stewart Goodings, Des Kennedy, Jennifer Lee
Local Writers: Wendy Burton, Lucy Dabbs, Roberta DeDoming, Arielle Fraser, Mica Gries, Graham Hayman, Claire King, Annie Siegel, Sheila Simpson-Brown, Stephanie Slater, Hillel Wright
Denman Island hosted Canadian writers who came from sea to sea for this year’s festival. Atlantic Canada’s bestselling author, Michael Crummey came here from Newfoundland, First Nations Lee Maracle arrived from Toronto while prairie writer, Fred Stenson drove for two days from Alberta. BC authors Aislinn Hunter, Donald Gutstein, Siling Zhang, Renee Saklikar came from the lower mainland while Eliza Robertson traveled up island from Victoria and Bob Bossin came from Gabriola. All of these talented authors gave solo sessions and participated in panels to share their creative works of imagination or research. All gave us thoughtful and inspired moments and left us with new ideas and insights. Our halls are still ringing with Lee Maracle’s laugh, Michael Crummey’s thoughtful reflections, Siling Zhang’s dynamic slam poetry, Renee Saklikar’s articulate poems, Donald Gutstein’s researched arguments, Bob Bossin’s songs and stories, Eliza Robertson’s creative work, Fred Stenson’s prairie tales and Aislinn Hunter’s wit and generosity (she announced from the stage that she would be donating her festival earnings to create a book allowance at Abraxas Books for the winner of a creative writing contest that will be promoted locally). Local moderators Stewart Goodings and Des Kennedy as well as Victoria broadcaster Jo-Ann Roberts each hosted a themed panel that gave us a chance to see groups of these writers discuss shared topics and issues. The opening welcome was a multi-media performance by Maxine Matilpi and Laurie Montemurro, two talented Denman women who created a beautiful beginning to the weekend.
Brought back by popular demand, Steven Price was our Writer-in-Residence and once again, directed a sold-out five day workshop for writers both aspiring and published. His skill and sensitivity for the written word and the structure of narrative brought him high praise from the attendees. Other festival authors also held workshops that were largely sold out and continue to be a popular and unique feature of our festival.
In addition, fifteen Denman writers read from their writing during two sessions over the weekend showing the talent and diversity that thrives here at home. And impossible to forget homemade delicious meals prepared by a crew assembled by Evan Penner and Ron Cadarette (from the Denman Hardware Emporium) – truly multi-talented men demonstrating their hospitality skills with beautifully made and presented food that culminated with do-it-yourself ice cream sundaes at the Saturday evening dinner! Also, our coffee providers from the Earth Club Factory continued to bring much appreciated caffeination to our audience and presenters. The Earth Club Factory also supported the festival by donating accommodation that allowed three enthusiastic high school students from the Comox Valley to attend our festival weekend as recipients of the Zaccheus Jackson Bursary program – established to encourage young writers and to honour the amazing slam poet who died tragically shortly after his 2014 appearance at our festival. Surprise appearances of the spectacularly costumed Carmen Mirandas (Margaret Fraser, Maxine Matilpi, and Susan Marie Yoshihara) and the Denman Island General Store’s poet laureate, Poetica Melancholia (Jennifer Lee) added a fun and theatrical touch to both our evening events.
Mix together all the above mentioned ingredients with fine weather, attentive audiences, supportive community, a cast of Denman volunteers and hospitable billet hosts, and it is no wonder that ours is such a successful and sought after literary festival.
” …. one of the best little literary festivals in Canada.” – The Globe & Mail
photos by Annette Reinhart
Writers: Bob Bossin, Michael Crummey, Donald Gutstein, Aislinn Hunter, Lee Maracle, Eliza Robertson,Renee Saklikar, Fred Stenson, Siling Zhang
Writer-in-Residence: Steven Price
Moderators: Stewart Goodings, Des Kennedy, Jo-Ann Roberts
Local Writers: Sheila Brown, Lucy Dabbs, Bill Engleson, Stewart Goodings, Lindsay Langdale Graf, Mica Gries, Graham Hayman, Butch Leslie, Elaine Martin, Lorraine Martinuik, Jo-Anne McLean, Del Phillips, Annie Siegel, Alan Stoddart, Hillel Wright
Denman residents are rightly proud of their community events, and the July Readers and Writers Festival deserved a lot of community pats on the back. However, it is even better when the praise comes from our guests and visitors. Renowned editor and publisher, and star performer at our Friday Main Stage event, Doug Gibson said, “Any writer who gets the chance to go to the Denman Island Festival has won the lottery. It’s great fun, in a spectacular setting, among bright, welcoming people who make you feel right at home. You may never leave.”
And this from Vancouver author Caroline Adderson, who referred to Denman as a “….. warm, generous and well-organized community. I loved every minute”, while Derek Lundy from Salt Spring told us, “I haven’t had a better time at any literary event – festival or otherwise.” It’s pretty clear that the Denman Festival lived up to its reputation as the “friendly festival”.
The numbers were up too, with Solo Readings bigger than ever, and all the workshops full. The tasty meals in the Back Hall brought in 20% more diners than last year.
For the organizers, what impressed was the conviviality and involvement of the invited authors this year. Many of them attended most of the sessions and rubbed shoulders with Festival attendees at the breaks and over meals. This makes the experience of being at the Denman Festival quite different from many other literary gatherings where writers do their reading, then disappear.
Everyone has their highlights, but based on feedback from Festival-goers, a few stand out. The Solo Reading with Zaccheus Jackson, the young slam poet, was full of his energy and passion and his remarkable rapid-fire delivery. The most popular event, in terms of numbers, was the Sunday morning conversation with Des Kennedy moderating a lively and profound discussion with the water rights advocate Maude Barlow and the environmental journalist Chris Turner. These Sunday conversations with a focus on social justice issues have in the last three years become a highlight of the Festival.
No one at the Friday evening Main Stage event will forget Doug Gibson’s eloquent and moving stories about the iconic literary figures he has edited and published over a 40 year career. It was like being in someone’s living room and hearing famous people come to life. The opening Solo Reading session featuring Richard Wagamese was memorable not only for the very personal stories he told about his life, and the moving excerpts he read from his book, “Medicine Walk”, but especially for the 15 minute oral essay he delivered at the start of his presentation. As the saying goes, you could have heard a pin drop.
Other notable memories were Jori Phillips, our Miss Spelled, circulating around the downtown venues in her now famous “thesaurus dress”; Ken Hatch and his colleagues belting out mellow music on the porch of the General Store; Festival organizers in their opening tribute to the Dora Drinkwater library; and the yelps of pleasure as Main Stage attendees won almost 30 gift certificates provided by local sponsors.
Whether people attended Solo Readings, Workshops, or Main Stage Events, the 2014 edition of the Festival once again brought high quality literature and engaging personalities into the community. And let’s not forget the local Denman writers, 13 of whom performed their readings at two well-attended sessions.
In his closing remarks on Sunday, Des Kennedy summed up the invited authors in these succinct and eloquent words:
“I’d like to acknowledge our amiable collection of authors: Richard Wagamese for his brave and profoundly personal disclosures; Chris Turner for encyclopedic analysis and quick wit applied to current events; Zaccheus Jackson for his vitality and humour and open-hearted affection for his fellow travellers; Pauline Holdstock for the crystalline clarity of her precision prose; Doug Gibson for his priceless and intimate glimpses at the icons of Canadian literature; Maude Barlow – for being Maude Barlow; Caroline Adderson for her wonderfully sad and subtle wit; Angie Abdou for her striking energy and her inspired descriptions of vomit (you had to be there!); Derek Lundy for the lucid insight with which he took us to dangerous places; and Rita Wong for poetry that flowed like liquid through the watersheds of imagination.”
The Denman Readers and Writers Festival, 2014 version, owes its reputation not only to these wonderful authors, but also to the scores of organizers, volunteers, billets and so many local citizens too numerous to mention who gave their time and talent and hospitality to make this event so successful. The moment the Festival ended, planning for 2015 began ….. as Jian Ghomeshi ends “Q” every morning, we too can say, “…. to be continued.”
photos by Annette Reinhart
Writers: Angie Abdou, Caroline Adderson, Maude Barlow, Doug Gibson, Pauline Holdstock, Zaccheus Jackson, Derek Lundy, Chris Turner, Richard Wagamese and Rita Wong
Writer in Residence: Steven Price
Moderators: Juan Barker, Des Kennedy and Doug Gibson
Local Writers: Hersh Chernovsky, Lucy Dabbs, Bill Engleson, Stewart Goodings, Mica Gries, Butch Leslie, Lorraine Martiniuk, Jo-Anne McLean, Del Phillips, Annie Siegel, Howard Stewart, Hillel Wright and Susan-Marie Yoshihara
Warm temperatures and sunny skies combined with the newly renovated Seniors Lounge and outdoor patio made for the perfect setting for our festival weekend.
Wedlidi Speck, the hereditary head chief of the Gixsam clan of the Kwakwaka’wakw cultural group, opened the festival by extending a warm welcome and anticipating the many stories and readings to fill our halls over the next days. Solo readings by all our authors were scheduled through the days and were enhanced by the outdoor music and poetry programming throughout the Denman village. Our own Miss-Spelled, with her handmade dress from pages of a Thesaurus, was present at all our venues to host, inform and generally wow participants with her creative garment.
The Friday evening Main Stage Readings were hosted by Kathryn Gretsinger and featured a pairing of poets, Fred Wah and Steven Price, then a duo of novelists, Anakana Schofield and Terry Fallis. Saturday night, a trio of writers, Kevin Chong, Katherine Monk and Esi Edugyan, spoke on the role and context of “Music” in each of their books.
Sunday brought some special programming with Terry Fallis making a presentation with visual projections, then a panel of authors, Ted Chamberlin, Lorna Goodison and Des Kennedy, speaking to the topic of “Islands” with moderator Kathryn Gretsinger. The finale came with a special presentation of Des Kennedy in conversation with Alexandra Morton, the high profile biologist who writes and works for the end of salmon fish farming on the west coast. This powerful presentation was followed by Wedlidi Speck who beautifully concluded this incredible weekend of stories told, information given, poems read and many new friends made!
photos by Annette Reinhart
Writers: J. Edward Chamberlin, Kevin Chong, Esi Edugyan, Terry Fallis, Lorna Goodison, Des Kennedy, Katherine Monk, Alexandra Morton, Steven Price, Anakana Schofield, Wedlidi Speck, Fred Wah
Writer in Residence: Jack Hodgins
Moderators: Kathryn Gretsinger, Des Kennedy
Local Writers: Hersh Chernovsky, Lucy Dabbs, Bill Engleson, Lindsay Langdale Graf, Claire King, Jennifer Lee, James Leslie, Lorraine Martinuik, Jane Masutani, Joanne McLean, Howard Stewart
The 2012 festival was held in the Denman Island Senior’s Hall with its interior disguised from its everyday life as a gymnasium by draping large white sails overhead and outlining the space with finely detailed, hand-made quilts lent for the occasion by the local Quilter’s Guild. This venue was used for all the readings, day and evening, making it festival central for the weekend.
The Friday night panel, titled “Wild Women” brought together this year’s Canada Reads winner, Carmen Aguirre, the well known Greenpeace environmentalist, Tzeporah Berman, and the Order of Canada recipient Audrey Thomas. Moderator Des Kennedy skillfully brought out the shared threads amongst these three ground-breaking women.
On Saturday evening, CBC’s Grant Lawrence gathered with another fascinating group of authors, this time all male, to discuss their writing life; award winning authors Timothy Taylor, Steven Galloway (this year’s Writer-in-Residence) and Garry Thomas Morse all contributed to the mix.
Throughout the weekend, many diverse presentations were heard within the hall – everything from historian Daniel Francis to performer/journalist Mark Leiren-Young to children’s writer and dynamic storyteller Nikki Tate.
Fifteen Denman writers and six young Denman writers shared their work with audiences who were constantly amazed by the richness, variety and strength of talent right here in our midst.
As well, there was a special treat on Sunday when Grant Lawrence read and shared images from his memoir set in Desolation Sound then welcomed his wife, the lovely-voiced Jill Barber, to the stage to perform several of her original compositions.
Add in the lively gatherings around shared meals, engaged audiences, and lots and lots of chance for contact between readers and writers and you have the recipe which has made the Denman Festival “one of the best little literary festivals in Canada” (the Globe and Mail).
photos by Annette Reinhart
Visiting Writers: Carmen Aguirre, Tzeporah Berman, Daniel Francis, Grant Lawrence, Mark Leiren-Young, Garry Thomas Morse, Nikki Tate, Timothy Taylor, Audrey Thomas
Writer-in-Residence: Steven Galloway
Moderators: Des Kennedy, Grant Lawrence
Denman Writers: Del Phillips (Opening Ode), Graham Brazier, Jo-Anne McLean, Sarah Joyce, Dante Ambriel, Sheila Nopper, Sandy Melnyk, Bill Engelson, Karl Goodwin, Tashi Draper, Ron Sakolsky, Ana Miriam Leigh, Marc Randall, Jennifer Lee, Mica Gries
Young Denman Writers: Lucy Dabbs, Elishka Hajek, Ondine Mayor, Lucy McFaul, Angelina Tauro, Ocea White
A huge thank you to all the participants and volunteers who made this year’s festival the best ever! It was an impressive event from the Grand Opening with our own Maxine Matilpi, to the Writer-in-Residence program with renowned Canadian author, Jack Hodgins, the Manuscript Assessment service offered by Langara College instructor and novelist, Heather Burt, and the Main Stage Events moderated by CBC’s Bill Richardson.
Our community hall is still ringing with the echoes of Bernice Friesen reading in Irish dialect (channeling her mother-in-law!), Anne Cameron fiercely opposing resource extraction, and Kate Braid reading her poetry between the bass notes of Clyde Reed. Information and insight came to us from Daphne Bramham’s investigation of polygamy in Bountiful, Andrew Nikiforuk’s research into the tar sands of northern Alberta, Wayde Compton’s essays on mixed race identity and John Vaillant’s extraordinary chronicle of the vengeance of a Siberian tiger.
Evelyn Lau gracefully read poetry, and husband and wife Paul Headrick and Heather Burt shared sections from their very accomplished works of fiction. Gurjinder Basran, our youngest author, read from her prize-winning, first novel. Denman writers presented outstanding readings and even young Denman writers contributed their own original stories.
The highlight of the 2011 festival, in the end, was the connections made between writers, between readers, and between readers and writers. We have all come away from a fantastic weekend feeling richer from the ideas heard and expressed, and ultimately, from the making of new friends.
photos by Annette Reinhart
Visiting Writers: Gurjinder Basran, Kate Braid, Daphne Bramham, Heather Burt, Anne Cameron, Wayde Compton, Bernice Friesen, Paul Headrick, Jack Hodgins, Evelyn Lau, Andrew Nikiforuk, and John Vaillant.
Writer In Residence: Jack Hodgins
Manuscript Assessment Program: Heather Burt
Host: Bill Richardson
Denman Writers: Sile Simpson, Sarah Joyce, Laura Busheikin, Karl Goodwin, Sheila Carnegie, Bill Engleson, Jennifer Lee, Graham Brazier, Del Philips, and Ana Miriam Leigh.
Young Denman Writers: Lucy Dabbs, Elishka Hajek, Ondine Mayor, Chenoa Honsinger, Sandra Puga, Ocea White, and Louise Eriksson.
Highlights include Joy Kogawa’s deep and heartfelt reflections in her solo session and main stage appearance, the melodic and inventive polyphonic readings with Robert Bringhurst and Jan Zwicky Friday afternoon, the unforgettable authentic raven call on the Friday night main stage from Nancy Turner, and the irrepressible Des Kennedy with his raucous dedication to Bill(y) Richardson on the Sunday afternoon main stage.
Equally impressive were the delightful young duo of emerging writers, Deborah Willis and Emily Mandel, poet Kevin Paul with his beautiful words, Brian Brett’s boisterous stories from Trauma Farm, Zsuzsi Gartner’s rapid fire prose and humour and her participatory quiz Friday morning, and Richard Mackie’s historical tales of Comox from its logging heyday.
Thanks for wonderful readings which started each day from local Denman writers, both adult and youth. Also, thanks to our writer-in-residence, Sharon Butala who gave a week long workshop for 10 lucky participants.
Thanks also to Charlotte Gill who offered one hour long manuscript assessment sessions by appointment and provided individual feedback for those who prearranged their time with her.
And our evening moderator, Bill Richardson, thanks for his humour and skill at bringing each panel together in approaching a common theme.
And finally, thanks to all of you – audience, supporters, and readers – we hope we have provided a year’s worth of new ideas and authors to explore and enjoy!
photos by Annette Reinhart & Danni Crenna
This year’s wonderful line-up of authors left us with plenty of ideas and readings to work on for at least the coming year. The many powerful solo sessions, provocative panel discussions and in-depth workshops made for a fantastically stimulating and engaging weekend.
Who wasn’t spellbound by Sarah Dunant’s presentation, Afua Cooper’s dub poetry, or Matt Rader’s poetry? Or provoked by the ideas and research of Deborah Campbell, Ronald Wright, and Gabor Maté? Or delighted by Eden Robinson’s laugh, Harold Rhenisch’s tales or Heidi Greco’s poems? Or transported by the work of Mary Novik and Steven Galloway? Or awed by the insight of writers such as Jack Hodgins and William Deverell?
Over the few days of the festival, we all traveled vicariously to 17 century London, Mayan Mexico, Iraqi refugee camps in Syria, Canadian-Caribbean communities, downtown eastside Vancouver, 15 century Italy, futuristic Britain, Sarajevo under siege, Cariboo grasslands, and then zoomed back into our own landscape here on the west coast.
What a trip – in every sense of the word! And CBC’s Mark Forsythe, our panel moderator, brought it all together with his skilled handling of the Main Stage events and his many inclusions of details from the Denman community.
Denman Island hospitality, once again, was highlighted through contributions from local billeting hosts, an on-island catering crew, volunteer helpers, the organizing committee and local community librarians. We had record numbers for attendance at many events thanks to our eager and appreciative audience members. And finally, many generous sponsors made it all possible. Thanks to all of you!
photos by Andrew Fyson
Visiting Writers: Deborah Campbell, Afua Cooper, William Deverell, Sarah Dunant, Steve Galloway, Heidi Greco, Gabor Maté, Mary Novik, Matt Rader, Harold Rhenisch, Eden Robinson, and Ronald Wright.
Writer In Residence: Jack Hodgins
Host: Mark Forsythe
Denman Writers: Jan Florian, Jennifer Lee, Jim Kirk, Ana Miriam Leigh, John Millen, Bill Engleson, Graham Brazier, Ron Sakolsky, Sheila Nopper, Dennis Forsyth, Karl Goodwin, and Del Phillips.
Young Denman Writers: Amelia Candy, Liam Cronin, Lucy Dabbs, Max Dabbs, Louise Eriksson, Livia Gibson, Odessa Gibson, Elishka Hajek, Liam Harrington, Noah Hicks, Kinana LeBaron, Tai McGillivray, Sandra Puga, Kassie Warner, Robin Zerr, and Vail Zerr.
Visiting Writers: Elizabeth Bachinsky, bill bissett, Sharon Butala, Maggie de Vries, Dennis Foon, Shaena Lambert, Jen Sookfong Lee, Brian Payton, Calvin Sandborn, and Howard White.
Writer In Residence: Jack Hodgins
Host: Sheryl MacKay
Denman Writers: Juan Barker, Jennifer Le Baron, Graham Brazier, Hersh Chernovsky, Bill Engleson, Dennis Forsyth, Jennifer Lee, Jane Masutani, John Millen, Jerry Miller, Del Phillips, Ron Sakolsky, and Jackie Ward.
Young Denman Writers: Kassie Warner, Moshe Little-Guient, Maia Stanton, Lucy Dabbs (also reading work by Livia Gibson), Amelia Candy, Grace Rempel, Laura Schmidt-Schweda (also reading work by Faith Dunnett), Max Dabbs, Fiona Le Baron (also reading work by Vail Zerr), and Amy Stewart
Visiting Writers: George Bowering, Stephen Collis, Ivan E. Coyote, Marcello Di Cintio, Gary Geddes, Daphne Marlatt, Ruth Ozeki, Alan Twigg, Rex Weyler, and Carol Windley.
Moderator/Hosts: Des Kennedy and Sheryl MacKay.
Denman Writers: Janey Bennett, Graham Brazier, Sheila Carnegie, Bill Engleson, Dennis Forsyth, Jane Masutani, Megan, Jeronimo Miller, Del Phillips, The Raging Grannies, and Ron Sakolsky.
Musicians & Other Performers: Gretchen Elsner, Carla Hallett and Robert Minden.
Visiting Writers: Marilyn Bowering, Baba Brinkman, Deborah Campbell, JB MacKinnon, John Pass, Brian Payton, Alisa Smith, Chris Tenove, and Richard Van Camp.
Moderator/Hosts: Juan Barker and Des Kennedy.
Denman Writers: Graham Brazier, Hersh Chernovsky, Ro DeDoming, Bill Engleson, Jan Florian, Elaine Martin, John Millen, Jerry Miller, Sheila Nopper, Del Phillips, Ron Sakolsky, Glen Snook, and Shaun Woods.
Visiting Writers: Bill Gaston, Christian Bök, M.A.C. Farrant, Daniel Francis, Terry Glavin, D.J. Hauka, and Susan Musgrave.
Moderator/Hosts: Keith Keller and Des Kennedy.
Denman Writers: Alison Bibby, Graham Brazier, Ro DeDoming, Bill Engelson, Jan Florian, Dennis Forsyth, Amanda Hale, Tim Hicks, Paul LeBaron, Elaine Martin, John Millen, Ana Miriam Leigh, Del Phillips, Gillian Rambold, Sile Simpson, and Norah Wright.
Visiting Writers: Emmajoy Crone, Amanda Hale, Julie Lawson, Jocelyn Reekie,
Chris Robertson, and Tom Wayman.
Visiting Writers: Arthur Black, Anne Cameron, Gail Anderson-Dargatz, Sheryl McFarlane, and Wendy Morton.
Denman Writers: Tricia Andrews, Graham Brazier, Giselle Charlebois, Hersh Chernovsky, Maddy Christie, Diane Davis, Roberta De Doming Jan Florian, Deborah Graham, Amanda Hale, Hans Jungman, Linda Kadlec-Diver, Madeline Keller, Jos Kollee, Bentley LeBaron, Ana Miriam Leigh, Lorraine Martinuik, Jane Masutani, John Millen, Del Phillips, Sandra Puga, Joy Reeves, Annie Russell, Jessie Russell, Kian Slobodin, Ruth Terry, Theo Terry, and Lea Trepanier.
2002 Denman Island Festival of the Arts
Young Writers: Maya Christie, Annie-Rose Lessard Kirwin, Emily Lonsdale, Madeline S. Keller MacLeod, Jesse Russell, Kian Slobodin, Theo Terry, Merle Therrien, and Alec Wright.
Fiction: Graham Brazier (w/Cynthia Minden & slides by Dennis Forsyth), Diane Davis, Jos Kollee, Hans Jungman, and Janet Simpson-Cooke.
Non-fiction: Jane Masutani, Maxine Matilpi and Rolf Ludvigsen.
Poetry: Roberta DeDoming, Ana Miriam Leigh, Roxanne Cowles-McPhail, Del Phillips, and Neysa Turner.